PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Three teenage “prolific offenders” are dead after deputies say they crashed a stolen Ford Explorer in Palm Harbor overnight.
In a news conference on Sunday morning, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri described the incident as “an unfortunate continuation of the epidemic of juveniles engaging in the deadly game of auto burglary and auto thefts.”
Deputies have identified the three who were killed as 16-year-old Keontae Brown, 14-year-old Jimmie Goshey and 16-year-old Dejarae Thomas. Another 14-year-old was also in the Explorer and was taken to the hospital.
Sheriff Gualtieri called the teens “prolific offenders” with extensive criminal histories. Some of them were released from jail as recently as a few days ago.
Two other teenagers, 18-year-old Kamal Campbell and a 16-year-old boy, are both in custody. Deputies say they were driving a second stolen car, a Chrysler Sebring.
The cars were stolen from a car lot in Clearwater on Thursday.
Around 1:30 Sunday morning deputies saw and recognized the Explorer and tried to pull the SUV over, but lost sight of it when it drove away. Deputies did not pursue the car.
Just a few hours later, around 4 a.m., another deputy saw both stolen cars go into the East Lake Woodlands residential area. A helicopter was sent out to try and find them and a perimeter around the community was put in place, but the cars were not located.
Another deputy was headed west on Tampa Road and saw both stolen cars also headed west, playing what the sheriff described as a “cat and mouse game” where one car slows and the other speeds up.
The deputy tried to stop the Explorer, but Sheriff Gualtieri says the driver sped away at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
When the Sebring slowed down, the deputy then made a U-turn and started heading east.
According to the sheriff, the Explorer then went through the intersection of US-19 and Tampa Road, crashing into an uninvolved car driven by 29-year-old Ricky Melendez. That driver suffered minor injuries.
Sheriff Gualtieri says the Explorer then went airborne and crashed into several cars in a car lot. The car then rolled, flipped and hit several other objects.
Two of the boys were found dead inside the Explorer. One was ejected. The survivor was taken to All Children’s Hospital.
Deputies later found the abandoned Sebring close to the intersection of US-19 and Sunset Point Road. The two teens who had ditched the car were taken into custody with help from the K9 Unit.
The sheriff’s office is asking for the public’s help to identify any other car or home burglaries in the North Clearwater, East Lake, Safety Harbor and Palm Harbor area that could be related to the crash. If you have information that could help, you’re asked to call (727) 582-6200.
Editor’s note: In an initial news release sent by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, a spokesperson described the incident as, “a vehicle accident with three fatalities as a result of law enforcement action.”
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